David Jackson, USA TODAY
President Obama appointed Vice President Biden on Wednesday to lead an effort to develop new policies to combat gun violence. The president set a January deadline for policy recommendations.
"We have a deep obligation -- all of us -- to try" and end gun violence, Obama said at the White House. "This time, the words need to lead to action."
Obama added: "It won't be easy, but that can't be an excuse not to try."
Obama said he picked Biden because of his experience in the Senate, including a major role in the 1994 crime bill that included an assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004.
The president said he believes in the Second Amendment, and he is betting that hunters and gun enthusiasts will support common sense restrictions. "An unbalanced man should not be able to get a military-style assault weapon," he said.
Obama did not make any specific proposals as he laid out the process his task force will use to pursue a comprehensive strategy in the wake of Friday's shooting at a school that killed 20 young students and six adults in Newtown, Conn.
Changing the culture will take "a wave of Americans" from all walks of life, Obama said, "including gun owners."
In recent days, the president has met with Biden and Cabinet members about how to move forward, including the possibility of new gun control laws.
"It's a complex problem that requires more than one solution," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "It calls not only for re-examining our gun laws -- and how well we enforce them -- but also for engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities to find those solutions."
Obama does support congressional efforts to revive an assault weapons ban and close the "gun show loophole" that allows people to buy weapons without background checks, Carney said. Obama is also interested in proposals to restrict high-capacity ammunition clips.
Carney's comments came as Democratic members of Congress stepped up their push for gun regulations after the mass killing in Newtown. Lawmakers have also called for more mental health funding and addressing the impact of violent video games and films on young minds.
At a memorial service Sunday in Newtown, Obama said: "In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can't accept events like this as routine."
In addition to Biden, Obama has spoken in recent days with .Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.